If you want to meet a real 40-year-old virgin I'm available for interviews. OK, technically speaking, since I have actually had sex, I'm not a virgin. But it's been 10, long years! Yes, the equivalent of a decade; I didn't stutter. So, I think my drought makes me eligible for reinstatement into Club Virgin. And before you go jumping to conclusions and making radical judgments, I'm extremely fond of men and I am not a lesbian. My Clitoris Interruptus was not premeditated; I didn't set out on some celibate spiritual journey. I hesitate to call it a choice - although that's clearly what it's become.
I grew up in the '80s, raised with 1950s traditional, conservative values and was taught that good girls didn't have sex before marriage. I remained a virgin until I was 26 and in graduate school. (I've always been a late bloomer).
Before the Match.com era, singles seeking a date - outside of the bar scene - placed and responded to personal ads in alternative city newspapers. That's how I met, and started dating, my first real boyfriend. He was also my first sexual partner, and my first husband. Our union lasted six months. Fast-forward to 2008 and I can count on one hand the number of dates, set-ups, or short-term relationships I've had in the past decade.
It's still a little embarrassing for me to admit that I met my boyfriend/husband when most women at that time—and even now— utilized more traditional paths to meeting a possible mate (i.e. church, social circles, college, family and friends). But honestly, I've exhausted all options, and it just isn't happening.
Is it me, or does anyone else see something wrong with this picture?
I'm smart, confident, and articulate. I don't chew with my mouth open or pick my nose in public. I'm also attractive and fun. Oh, and before I forget, I am also black, which is a key element in my story.
I know logistics have also played a role. In the world where I grew up - Boulder, Colo. - there wasn't exactly a plentitude of black men. I attended a historically black college in a small northern Mississippi town. There were - and still remain - black women attending college and pursuing degrees in higher education in significantly higher numbers than black men. This decreased the number of possible male suitors that I might have encountered during my undergraduate and graduate school years.
So, here's what I know for sure, as Oprah would say: Dating and mating has changed a lot since the '60s when my parents married. Back then, women went to college to get an education and a husband. And marriage was something that men seemed to want as much as women. Or, maybe it was just a societal expectation and few challenged such traditional notions.
But in the generation since my parents' union, relations between black men and women have changed - significantly. The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies reported that the number of black women who were married between 1950 and 2001 declined from 62 to 36 percent. During that same period, the percentage of black women who had never been married doubled from 20 to 42 percent. Add to that the small pool of eligible, professional black men - in my post graduate school life - who don't have children out of wedlock or from a previous marriage often choosing to date and marry white women, and it's a recipe for a weakening of the black middle class.
Surprisingly, at the beginning of the new millennium, nearly 45 percent of black men had never been married, which is problematic for me or any woman who prefers black men. My personal preference has always been chocolate. I've dated vanilla, a few times, but it just doesn't have the je ne sais quoi and I've never connected with vanilla in the same way that I have with chocolate. There are also cultural and background similarities, and the ease, comfort, and familiarity that I have when I'm in the company of the same flavor— Mocha Chocalata.
If I had really wanted to have sex in the last decade, I could have. But as much as I miss the exhilaration and intimacy of being with a man, I'm not desperate. And I'm not willing to give my body to just anyone - particularly without the possibility of a long-term relationship and commitment. And while I am lonely, I am not alone. I have mastered eating by myself in nice restaurants, going to movies and attending the theater unescorted. I have friends and family who love me and with whom I enjoy spending time.
I would like to find a man with whom I could be equally yoked in intelligence, ambition, values, and a mutually shared physical chemistry. But short of a miracle, I've pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I may never have another meaningful, healthy relationship - much less a sexual relationship - in my life. It's disheartening when I really stop and absorb the reality that I could likely spend the remainder of my life uncoupled— and sexually unsatisfied—simply because I choose to wait until an adequate black mate comes along.
Jennifer E. Mabry is a writer living in Colorado. She holds a Ph.D. in communications from the University of Maryland, College Park and is a cultural anthropologist of race, gender and popular culture.